5 Destinations for Vegans In and Around Hudson County

A good vegan place can be hard to find. But if you’re committed to eliminating animal products from your diet, it’s an essential! When you find a vegan-friendly restaurant, bakery, or cafe that serves up appetizing fare, it’s a reason to jump for joy. Fortunately, health-conscious, meat-free fare is on the rise. Whether you adopt a plant-based diet out of a love for animals or as part of a healthy lifestyle, it’s becoming easier than ever to find vegan favorites when you’re dining out. These vegan destinations in Hudson County will have you licking your plate!

Subia’s Organic Cafe

506 Jersey Ave, Jersey City
This eatery is nestled inside an organic market offering vegan-friendly fare. The menu serves up American-style favorites that won’t make you miss the meat. Try the California Dreamin’ burger made with a textured plant protein patty and topped with avocado, vegan mayo, sprouts, special sauce, and more. Try it with a signature smoothie or house-made juice blend, and you’ll see why locals say Subia’s serves the best vegan food in town.

Mundo Vegan

20 Church St, Montclair
If you’re craving a sit-down meal rather than Subia’s sandwiches and burgers, go to Mundo. The food is vegan, all organic, and free from GMOs. You’ll even find plenty of gluten-free options on the menu as well. The globally-inspired dishes range from vegan lasagna to chorizo picadillo. Customers say that even meat-eaters will find something to love here—and they might not believe that what they’re eating is “just plants.” The space is small but cozy, and outdoor seating is available during the warmer months.

Koro Koro

201 Washington St, Hoboken
Japanese cuisine offers a plethora of vegan-friendly options, and Koro Koro is proof of that. Onigiri, or sticky rice balls stuffed with savory fillings, are the main event here. The fusion-style menu isn’t fully vegan, but with meatless fillings like Indian chickpea curry and Moroccan vegetable, you’ll hardly notice. Koro Koro regularly makes top-ten lists for affordable eats, vegan eats, and all-around favorite spots in Jersey City.

Veganized

9 Spring St, New Brunswick
This New Brunswick favorite offers an eclectic mix. Veganized‘s organic menu finds ways to turn favorite comfort foods into vegan-friendly dishes, from Philly-style mushroom wraps to a “mackin cheeze” made with sweet potato cashew cream. The vegan mac alone is enough to make Veganized a favorite place to eat. And that’s not all! They also offer a vegan brunch on the weekends. Stop by on Saturday or Sunday for a “no buttermilk biscuit” or an “unscramble” made with tofu and shiitake mushrooms.

Sweet Avenue Bake Shop

153 Park Ave, Rutherford
It’s not easy to make a vegan dessert without tasting the difference, but Sweet Avenue nails it every time. They’re an award-winning bakery that’s been in business for over 10 years. You’d never guess that their trendy cupcakes, round cakes, cookies, and more are made with no milk, no butter, and no eggs! They also offer plenty of gluten-free, soy-free, and/or nut-free options to cover every dietary restriction or allergen, so everyone can enjoy their treats. With rave reviews and unique flavors like S’mores and Strawberry Cheesecake, you’re sure to come back for more.

These vegan eateries offer something that anyone and everyone can enjoy, whether you’re a lifelong vegan, trying to eat more plant-based foods, or just curious about what an animal product-free diet is like. Organic, plant-based meals are a healthy choice for the whole family.

Good nutrition provides a solid foundation for children to learn and grow. A healthy body helps develop a healthy mind. At Tessa International School, we provide a world-class education that lets children flourish. We encourage cultural awareness and social development alongside academic challenges. Contact us for more information.

Check out our other Hoboken & Hudson County lists:

Four Gyms with Great Childcare in and Around Hoboken

5 Great Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Jersey City

10 Great Family Activities in Hoboken

Restaurant Patios to Enjoy in Nice Weather in and Around Hoboken, NJ

The spring and summer fly by so quickly in Hoboken. When the weather is nice, you’ll want to take advantage of all of the great eateries with patios, gardens, and outdoor seating. Going to a biergarten with friends? Planning a fancy date night? A day out with the family? There are plenty of opportunities to be outside enjoying the nice weather at any time of day, for any occasion, with any company, and feasting on any kind of cuisine. Here’s a list of some of our favorites:

Anthony David’s

http://anthonydavids.com/
953 Bloomfield St, Hoboken
Brunch, Merenda, and Dinner (Everyday)

This traditional Italian spot is a little upscale, but with the BYOB option, it’s an affordable date night. It’s a perfect spot for outdoor brunching any day of the week. Their small, but charming, sidewalk patio is on a neighborhood corner. Anthony David’s offers all-day options including salads, sandwiches, antipasto, and pastas.

Cafe Matisse

http://cafematisse.com/
167 Park Ave, Rutherford
Dinner (Wed – Sun, Closed Mon & Tues)

This upscale cafe is quite a treat, especially when the weather is nice. Their gourmet entrees look like a work of art, and draw inspiration from many world cuisines. The back garden, filled with greenery and colorful decor, will make you feel like you’ve been transported to another country. It’s even BYOB!

Elysian Cafe

http://elysiancafe.com/
1001 Washington St, Hoboken
Brunch, Lunch, Dinner (Everyday)

This modern French bistro with New American inspirations is there for you whenever the weather is nice. It’s a popular spot, however, so show up early to get a seat on their wrap-around sidewalk patio. The decorative fence and flower boxes make the patio feel more private, while still giving you a view of the charming neighborhood.

The Cuban

http://www.thecubannj.com/
333 Washington St, Hoboken
Lunch & Dinner (Everyday)
Brunch (Sat & Sun)

This warmly decorated restaurant is great spot to visit during the warmer weather. They have a comfortable sidewalk patio, and a great happy hour with small bites. It’s perfect for a relaxing sunny afternoon. The Cuban offers traditional Cuban cuisine like steak, plantains, and yuca mash.

City Bistro

http://www.citybistrohobokennj.com/
56 14th St, Hoboken
Brunch (Sat & Sun)
Lunch & Dinner (Everyday)

This late-night spot is as much a bar as a restaurant, and an excellent outdoor venue for both. Party with live music under a canopy of stars and lights on hot summer nights on their sizable rooftop patio. Before venturing up, enjoy some delicious Italian-American fare like crostinis, pizza, and sandwiches.

Pier 13

https://pier13hoboken.com/
1301 Sinatra Dr N, Hoboken
Open Everyday (Food Trucks Vary)

You can spend a whole day at Pier 13, enjoying the nice weather, drinking beer, kayaking, listening to live music, and taking in the incredible view of the skyline. This family friendly atmosphere hosts tons of regular and visiting food trucks, offering many cuisines, drinks, snacks, and deserts.

Hoboken Hot House

200 Monroe St, Hoboken
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This neighborhood corner cafe has a nice casual laid-back atmosphere. They serve paninis, sandwiches, quiche, as well as coffee and espresso drinks. The backyard patio and garden is a perfect place to spend a morning after a jog or an afternoon working on a laptop. It’s a large space, for the area, and isn’t out on the sidewalk like many of the local patios.

Pilsener Haus & Biergarten

http://www.pilsenerhaus.com/
1422 Grand St, Hoboken
Brunch (Sat & Sun)
Dinner (Everyday)

This biergarten has everything you need for a day of family and friends. The large communal tables make for a lively, sociable atmosphere. But the giant beer list isn’t the only attraction. They also offer delicious Austro-Hungarian fare like sausages, schnitzel, and strudel. The large outdoor patio is the place to be on a nice day.

Are you a local Hoboken parent with a preschool-age child? At Tessa International School, we love seeing local families out during the nice weather. That’s why outdoor exercise is a part of our curriculum. Learn more about our summer camp here.  

Check out our other Hoboken & Hudson County lists:

Four Gyms with Great Childcare in and Around Hoboken

5 Great Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Jersey City

10 Great Family Activities in Hoboken

 

Bilingual Language Programs Benefit Brain Development!

It’s an age old question: does learning a foreign language have visible effects on your brain? With advances in modern technology, scientists now possess the equipment to study parts of the brain during language learning. Medical machinery, like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), make it possible for doctors to dive deep down into the cortex and gain a better understanding of how learning a new language affects brain development at any age.

Cerebral Language Processing

It was once thought only certain regions of the brain, such as Broca’s and Wernicke’s area, were capable of cerebral language processing. But with brain-imaging methods, like fMRI, scientists now know every major lobe plays a part in our ability to process language.

The four lobes:

  1. Frontal lobe (Broca’s area)
  2. Parietal lobe (Wernicke’s area)
  3. Temporal lobe (Wernicke’s area)
  4. Occipital lobe

What Happens to the Brain When Learning Language?

In 2012, the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy measured brain function between a group of language recruits and a group of science students. The study design was simple: the recruits underwent an intense three-month language course and the control group diligently studied something other than language, both for three-months. Scientists took fMRIs of students before they began their three-months of intense study and after they completed three-months of intense study and compared the results between groups. What they found fascinated them!  

Brain Growth Varies Among Student Performance

Swedish scientists proved on brain scans what researchers and educators have believed for decades: learning a foreign language positively impacts brain growth. Brain-imaging visibly demonstrated that bilingual education benefits brain development. In fact, researchers were pleasantly surprised to learn that different parts of the brain developed at different degrees depending on how much effort a student had put into their own language learning. In other words, the more effort a student put into their own learning, the more they cognitively benefited.

fMRI demonstrated greater growth in the following areas:

  • Hippocampus ~ This structure is a part of your limbic system and plays a role in memory, learning, and emotion. Deep within your temporal lobe is a portion of your hippocampus.
  • Superior temporal gyrus ~ This structure contains your primary auditory cortex and is responsible for processing sounds. It’s understandable how perceiving sounds would affect your ability to process language.
  • Middle frontal gyrus ~ This brain bump takes up about a third of your frontal lobe and is responsible for re-orienting attention and perceptual processing.

Bilingual Education Benefits Brain Development

The Swedish study finally confirmed that learning foreign languages foster brain growth and development.

For educators, doctors, and clinical researchers, this data has potential to shift the direction of education and medicine to benefit children of all ages, including those with dyslexia or autism. Imagine educators and researchers using fMRI scans to help tailor bilingual education programs to each individual child’s cognitive ability. If your child is struggling to correctly pronounce some words or observe linguistic patterns and syntax, brain imaging could help to develop phonetic software and language apps that match their unique brain circuitry.

Learning Languages Keeps the Brain Fit  

Linguistic research continues to unravel more cognitive abilities that lie deep within our brains. In fact, learning languages doesn’t only benefit children, but also adults! Like aerobic exercise keeps your heart healthy, learning another language keeps your brain fit. It can help buffer your brain against the effects of aging and delay the onset of dementia!

If you’re in New Jersey and wish to enhance your child’s language learning and development, schedule a private tour to visit Tessa International School today!

Four Gyms with Great Childcare In and Around Hoboken

by Tori Galatro

Working out relieves stress, promotes health, and keeps you energized throughout the day, all facets of self-care that are hard to keep up with when you’re looking after a child. Luckily, many gyms offer childcare for a small fee, so you, and your child too, can get the benefits of a great workout. Here are some of the best gyms in and around Hoboken, New Jersey with safe, accommodating, and attentive childcare options.

Local Barre

Hoboken Uptown: 1180 Maxwell Lane, Hoboken, NJ

Hoboken WEST: 720 Monroe Street C300, Hoboken, NJ

If you’re a fan of yoga, pilates, and dance, the barre classes at Local Barre offer a unique way to get fit in a positive, fun, fabulous, and confidence-building environment. This proudly high-end establishment is women focussed (although anyone is welcome), safe, and child-friendly. Known as Monkey Barre, Local Barre offers BYOBaby classes for younger than 6 months, and separate childcare for older than 6 months. Children need to be registered for classes, and parents are encouraged to bring a supportive seat for children who can’t sit independently. Toys, books, puzzles, videos, and music are available in the playroom, where parents can drop their children off for supervised free play while they enjoy a barre class. Childcare is $5 per child and allows nut-free snacks and drinks. Child and adult classes are available throughout the week for convenient scheduling in two Hoboken locations. Memberships range from $149 per month to $249 per month.

Hamilton Health & Fitness

161 Erie Street, Jersey City, NJ

This classic high-end gym is spotlessly clean, which is great considering they boast a pool, a steam room, and a sauna. A jungle gym and children’s room are devoted to childcare every morning, early afternoon, and some evenings, for children between 3 and 7 years old. Childcare at Hamilton is $10 per child with a membership, but they can stay for the impressively long span of 2 hours, and are visible from a TV in the workout spaces. Adults can take classes in pilates, yoga, martial arts, and even swimming. Children can enjoy swimming at this facility too, with classes from infants to preteens. Memberships are $90 per month with a $125 enrollment fee.

 

Prime Cycle

70 Hudson St, Hoboken, NJ

With rhythmic beats and lights, these spin classes feel more like going to a dance club than going to the gym. Incorporating full body choreographed workouts, Prime Cycle offers full-sensory spin classes that are sure to get you sweating, and even keep track of your stats so you can beat your own record. The facility is very clean and comfortable, with multiple showers. Parents can register in advance for $5 Mini Prime babysitting during classes throughout the week. There are typically 1-3 babysitting times per day. Prime Cycle also offers kids yoga, for ages 4 to 6, and family yoga, for all ages. Plans include a 5 Class Pass for $95, Unlimited Classes for $170, and many more deals and packages.

Work it Out

603 Willow Ave, Hoboken, NJ

5 Marine View Plaza, Hoboken, NJ

This gym is all about confident, strong, empowered women. The classes are diverse and unique, including influences of spin, zumba, barre, boxing, yoga, dance, and more. Work it Out has options to keep children occupied from newborns to teens. In Bite Size Barre, women do barre exercises with their children, up to 18 months, beside them, strapped to them, or still in their tummies. In Kids Gap (Gymnastics and Play), moms can drop their children off at childcare while they take a class for $10, with discounts available. Children are entertained by the staff with age-appropriate exercise, games, and arts and crafts. Work it Out also hosts its own kids gymnastics program running from age 2 to age 14. Memberships range from $145 per month to $189 per month, with packages available for $22 per class.

At Tessa International School in Hoboken, we know free play and exercise is an essential part of PreSchool education. We even offer Summer Camps!

Check out our other Hoboken & Hudson County lists:

5 Great Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Jersey City

10 Great Family Activities in Hoboken

10 Awesome Activities in Hoboken to Keep the Kids Busy After-School

Is Your Child Ready for Preschool?

by Tori Galatro

The typical age children enter preschool is 3 or 4 years old to prepare them for kindergarten at age 5. Many parents worry that their child may not have reached the appropriate developmental milestones for preschool, and don’t know when the right moment is. Deciding on the readiness of your child for preschool is not an exact science. No child enters preschool perfectly developed in all areas, and they shouldn’t be. Preschool should challenge them and help them to develop skills they don’t already have. So if they don’t check all of the skill boxes, don’t panic, and you don’t necessarily need to wait either.

However, there will be certain elements your child will have to deal with in preschool. They will be separated from you for multiple hours, asked to follow a routine, and follow simple instructions. In some cases, they may be expected to be potty trained. If they feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or alienated by these demands, that won’t help them to develop those skills any faster. Feeling calm and confident is important to social and emotional development, which helps with every other life skill. If your child is excited to be at preschool, and feels positively about the environment, they are more likely to learn and develop in that environment. It’s totally normal for children to experience separation anxiety and feel overwhelmed or upset, but preschool should not feel consistently scary and negative for long periods of time.

Pay attention to your child’s development and wait for the moment where they reach the happy medium, where the demands of preschool are fun and challenging at the same time. If you’re not sure if they are ready, remember that you can always start helping them to develop these skills at home. They can also begin by going part-time, and increase to full-time at a later date.

Potty Training

Some preschools don’t require that children be potty trained, while others are very strict about it. Either way, it’s a great skill to focus on with your child at home to help them learn other important skills like communicating their needs, personal hygiene, and using self control. Make sure your child understands that hand washing is part of the same activity, no matter where they are or who they’re with.

Concentration, Independence, & Communication

Unlike potty training, these “soft” skills will help your child to participate in activities, have their needs met, and learn from the lessons being taught to them. Help your child to practice doing designated activities for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, do simple chores by themselves, and express themselves verbally, even if they aren’t using complete sentences. Get them to be around other children, even if they aren’t directly interacting yet.

Emotional Coping

Most children need to be eased into being away from their parents for an extended period of time. Few children can be expected to adapt to this right away without a little practice first. Leaving your child with a babysitter of family member is also great practice for you if you’re feeling just as apprehensive as them about the separation.

Energy Levels

Preschool requires some serious energy and the ability to follow a routine. If your child is taking long mid-morning naps and isn’t used to a schedule, a great way to get them ready for preschool is to mimic the routine of preschool at home. Also, making sure they get good quality sleep at night starting at a reasonable hour in the evening, and exercise during the day, will help them stay energized and healthy overall.

The quality of the preschool you choose is just as important to their development as the age they start. At home and at school, your child will learn and grow best if the people around them are showing them care and attention, listening to them, and paying attention to their needs. Again, don’t worry too much that their age match the exact average for their class.

It’s always possible that they could skip a grade later if they are placed in the correct developmental age group now. And remember that if you’re concerned about your child’s development in any way, you should always talk to their doctor. Addressing concerns about their development now, even if that means holding them back, will help them in the future.

 

At Tessa International School, a nurturing, caring and challenging environment is who we are. Potty training is not required for the younger ages. We’re committed to creating a partnership between home and school environments. To find out more, feel free to contact us at 201 755 5585.

5 Great Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Jersey City

If you’re thinking about going out to eat in Jersey City, you might think there are no restaurants that cater to families with children. Luckily, there are plenty of places in Jersey City that regularly host families. Below are some great options for restaurants you and your children can enjoy together, where children are welcomed and catered to.

The Brownstone Diner

Most diners are family-friendly, and the Brownstone Diner in Jersey City is one of the best around. Located on Jersey Ave, this diner is known for its pancakes, which your children are sure to love. And pancakes are available all day, so you can even have breakfast for dinner. Any time you are looking for an affordable, easy meal out, this is a great option for everyone in the family.

The Beechwood Cafe 

This restaurant is a great breakfast spot, perfect when you want to meet up with other parents and their children. There’s plenty of room on the inside, and high-chairs are available if you need one. You can even sit outside if the weather is nice. They serve a combination of healthy, American, non-American, and comfort foods. Although there is not an official children’s menu, small side dishes and pastries are available. You can find their website here for more information.

The Hamilton Inn

If you’re looking for a great place to grab brunch the Hamilton Inn has you covered. Here you’ll find some great happy hour specials, a good children’s menu, and a relaxed atmosphere. If you take the kids here during the day, you are only a short walk from Hamilton Park, so you can get some fresh air afterwards, the children can play, and you can all enjoy the day.

Gino’s Pizzeria

Sometimes you just want to sit down and enjoy a slice of pizza with the family. When you do, consider Gino’s Pizzeria. This family-owned restaurant located on Central Ave has a very casual atmosphere, making it perfect for people who want to dine with their kids. Everyone loves a good slice of pizza, especially children, and that’s exactly what you’ll get at Gino’s.

City Diner

Lastly, we close out with another diner. City Diner is one of the best in Jersey City, offering all day breakfast, drink specials, and a casual setting. As with many diners, the restaurant is perfect for families. You’ll rarely be the only family in the place. Once you’re done enjoying your meal, City Diner is only a short walk from the water, so you and your family can go take a stroll along the Hudson, and look at the New York City skyline.

So Many Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Jersey City!

As you can see, there are plenty of options when it comes to dining with your children in Jersey City. The above options all have food your children are sure to like, enough space to move around, and a relaxed atmosphere, but they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to kid-friendly restaurants in Jersey City. There are so many options to explore.

For more, check out our list of great family restaurants in Hoboken!

Tessa International School is a foreign language preschool serving families in and around Jersey City. We love our community, and are proud to provide a fun-filled, caring atmosphere for children. Contact us for more information.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills of Preschoolers: What Parents Can Expect as Children Grow

As the parent of a preschooler, you will want to compare your child’s motor skills to the average developmental skill level to gauge their growth and development. Motor skills are the motions that occur as a result of a child’s brain, nervous system, and muscles working together. Although each child develops different skills at different rates, it’s helpful to get a basic idea of the milestones they should be reaching at each stage. Since motor skills are supported by many areas of the body, they are a helpful guide for parents to access their child’s development early on. It’s also a great way to tell if your child in naturally inclined towards any physical skills, so you can encourage them to develop their unique talents.

Here’s what you need to know about fine and gross motor skills for young children and the average ages these skills start to develop.  

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills involve using smaller muscles and movements, such as grasping small items or holding utensils. It’s important that small children develop fine motor skills, so the small muscles of their hands, fingers and toes can become strong and dexterous. These skills also include the small muscles of the tongue and lips necessary for language. As fine motor skills in preschoolers improve, young children are able to do simple tasks, such as feed themselves.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 2-3

  • Creating things, using their hands, such as building towers using wooden or plastic blocks.
  • Scribbling with crayons.
  • Molding Playdough or clay into simple shapes.
  • Inserting shapes into matching holes, such as placing round pegs into round holes.
  • Preferring one hand over the other one, which can signify if a child is right or left handed.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 3-4

  • Showing more independence in trying to dress or undress themselves.
  • Manipulating zippers, snaps and other garment fasteners.
  • Starting to use round-edged or blunt scissors.
  • Using spoons and forks.
  • Being able to use large crayons, markers and other types of thicker writing tools.
  • Twisting off lids from jars.
  • Opening and closing doors by turning door knobs and pulling handles.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 4-5

  • Continued refinement of fine motor skills, such as being able to unbutton or button clothing without help.
  • Improved artistic abilities, such as drawing simple shapes and stick figures.
  • Drawing large letters.

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills don’t require as much precision as fine motor skills do. Besides involving movement, gross motor skills entail arm and leg coordination, in addition to moving other large parts of the body, such as crawling, running and swimming.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 2-3

  • Running, hopping and jumping, which typically occurs after toddlers start to walk smoother, faster, and with more confidence.
  • Throwing and catching large balls.
  • Using the feet for pushing themselves when maneuvering a toy car.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 3-4

  • Improved upper body mobility, which enables children to catch and throw large balls.
  • Hitting a stationary ball from a tee.
  • The onset of stair climbing, although somewhat awkward—At this age, climbing stairs is usually done cautiously, in which both feet land on a step together before proceeding to the next step. Parents need to assist their kids in stair climbing to prevent falls. They should especially be on hand when their kids descend stairs
  • Hopping and jumping higher because of stronger leg muscles with some children being able to hop on a single foot.
  • Starting to ride a tricycle due to the improvement of overall body coordination.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 4-5

  • Ascending and descending stairs without assistance.
  • Skipping.
  • Spinning the body when throwing a ball.
  • Riding tricycles or even bikes with better control at faster speeds.
  • Running faster and smoother.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Toddling, which is a movement, which pertains to a wide-legged posture that resembles robot-like motions, can be a clue that walking will soon begin.
  • Before most young children start kindergarten, they’re able to totally dress and undress themselves without assistance even though it can take a while.
  • As parents, you can help your preschoolers develop their fine motor skills at home, such as showing them how to cut and paste, use a zipper, clap their hands, build with blocks, do simple puzzles and manipulate crayons and pencils.
  • Once young children learn how to twist off lids, it’s critical that parents keep containers containing harmful substance out of reach.

Do you have a child who will soon be old enough for preschool? Maybe you’re a new mom. If so, it’s not too soon to start thinking about preschool and giving your son or daughter a quality early childhood education. Besides helping preschoolers with basic motor skills and developing their cognitive and social abilities, at Tessa International School we also introduce them to other cultures and languages, which can prepare them to be leaders of the 21st century. Please contact us and learn more about our exceptional preschool in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Extraordinary Benefits of Mandarin Language Learning for Children

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken native language in the world, with 960 million people using it as their first language. Despite China’s many regions, language groups, and dialects, Mandarin has been the lingua franca of China and Taiwan for more than 500 years.

As China has grown in recent decades to become a world power, the Mandarin language has increased in importance for international business and foreign relations. China is now the world’s fastest growing economy, and adults increasingly find that the ability to speak Mandarin would be a useful skill to have. Moreover, most governments and international businesses have a preference for multilingual employees.

However, Mandarin is a notoriously difficult language for Westerners to learn. Without an alphabet, there is no accurate count for the total number of written characters, but it is estimated to be around 60,000. And it is very difficult for speakers of non-tonal languages to learn to adapt and correctly mimic the tonal nature of the spoken words.

But this learning difficulty does not hold true for children. Young children are still developing their primary language skills, and their brains are highly receptive to learning and adaptation. The ideal time for a Westerner to learn Mandarin and achieve fluency is at a young age. Moreover, aside from the practical gains of knowing Mandarin as an adult, studies show that children benefit in many ways from learning Mandarin while they are young. Here are just a few:

Develop Accurate Hearing and Interpretation of Sounds

Learning tonal languages is easier for children, who are sensitive to the differences in sounds. The younger a child begins learning, the more accurately they can replicate these sounds. Furthermore, this familiarity with tones and sounds actually helps cultivate musical ability in children. A study at the University of California in San Diego found a strong correlation between fluency in a tonal language, and the development of perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is indicative of certain advanced cortical processes. So not only does Mandarin potentially benefit the brain, it potentially makes the child a better singer!

 

Better Interpretation of Symbols

Since Mandarin writing relies on thousands of character, learners of Mandarin Chinese have to read and interpret a vast number of visual symbols, activating more regions of the brain than English, which relies on a phonetic alphabet. Through learning Mandarin, children can become more adept at visual communication, more readily interpreting symbols in visual art and understanding nuances in symbolism and visual communication.

Improved Hand-Eye Coordination

While most Western languages are written in one direction, the act of writing Mandarin characters requires brush or pen strokes in multiple directions, with differentiating hand pressure. Writing in this way has been shown to improve fine motor skills and spatial recognition in children.

Stronger Math Skills

Yes, there is actually a scientific correlation between learning Mandarin and improved mathematical ability. Scientists theorize that because Mandarin representation of numbers is less abstract than Arabic numbers, and because the act of practicing handwriting requires repeated counting, young children gain greater familiarity with math and with numeric thinking. In learning Mandarin, the mathematical concepts are integral to the language fluency, and not a separate subject activating a different part of the brain.

Because Mandarin Chinese involves learning language, sounds, drawing, and math all at once, it activates more regions of the brain and improves cognitive development overall, even in adults. In fact, speakers of Mandarin use more of their brain more of the time, unlike English speakers who tend to alternate between left and right hemispheres. In theory, this more balanced brain could lead to greater overall creativity, enhanced problem-solving, and increased emotional intelligence.

With all these benefits for the mind and brain, Mandarin language learning for children is sure to be an asset for their whole life, regardless of their eventual interests or profession. Get them started today!

 

Building A Foundation with The International Baccalaureate

As our world continues to globalize, today’s students need exposure to international cultures and ideas. Those students who are fortunate enough to have access to an International Baccalaureate program receive not only an excellent education but also a solid foundation for the future.

For nearly fifty years, International Baccalaureate (IB) has offered programs for preschool and elementary, middle school and high school. Schools must apply for IB accreditation and demonstrate that they maintain IB’s rigorous academic standards and philosophy. (GreatSchools.org)

International Baccalaureate differs from Advanced Placement, also a respected and rigorous program. While AP courses carry the option of earning college credit through points on end-of-course exams, IB does not. However, IB begins the academic rigor as early as preschool and focuses on the social-emotional development of the student in addition to the academic development. IB offers an entire curriculum with an interdisciplinary approach, rather than a set of subjects taught in isolation to one another.

Developing the Whole Child

In an IB setting, schools focus on the development of the child as an individual. Beginning with the Primary Years Programme, students work in the core subjects to focus on several themes:

  • Who we are
  • Where we are in time and place
  • How we express ourselves
  • How the world works
  • Sharing the planet
  • How we organize ourselves

In these early years, IB programs utilize an inquiry-based approach to examine different issues present in today’s world, and incorporate the ideas in all areas of their learning, from math and science classes, to humanities and arts classes, to social studies, and physical education. Children learn by asking questions and working with one another to solve problems, facilitated by their teacher. (GreatSchools.org)

Moving to the Middle Years Programme, students continue making connections between their studies and real world events and issues. Students begin to develop analytical thought. IB believes that thoughtful, reflective questioning and analysis ought to have a place in all areas of a child’s life, rather than just in the classroom. Students develop the skills to become thoughtful people, and life-long learners, who can interact positively and empathetically with diverse groups.

The high school program, or the Diploma Programme, continues to develop the whole student as it seeks to expand the minds of advanced students who wish to thrive. Students tackle six subjects as well as the “theory of knowledge.” They develop independent projects and also engage in community service. Ultimately, the full IB program aims to develop citizens of the world who can lead and engage with others around the globe.

Academic Rigor

Don’t confuse the holistic, whole-child development approach with an easy-going atmosphere that skimps on academics. International Baccalaureate programs are time-consuming and demanding. Many schools with IB programs require that students demonstrate academic proficiency before being admitted. The program prepares them for competitive universities around the world.

Students develop their higher-level thinking skills in an IB program. They prepare for final evaluations of projects and take end-of-course examinations to showcase their analytical and writing skills in the academic arena and, impressively, put together and present presentations from a young age. Students who successfully complete International Baccalaureate programs are awarded IB certificates that can be separate from their institution’s general diploma. The certificate carries prestige and is respected by educational institutions around the US and the world. (ibo.org)

International Baccalaureate students excel by developing outstanding critical thinking skills in arenas where they are expected to also contribute on a community, social, and ethical level as well. They learn that these aspects of our humanity should be separated. Learning starts early and continues for a lifetime.

Please contact us if you have questions about the International Baccalaureate programs.

How Does Language Learning Affect Brain Development in Children?

Raising a child who is bilingual may seem like a daunting task. Maybe you learned a second language as an adult and you remember how difficult it was for you, or maybe you aren’t sure if a child is capable of picking up the intricacies of two separate languages. You may not realize that a young child’s brain is vastly different from an adult’s brain. Research tells us that, not only are children great at learning and retaining new languages, but learning multiple languages earlier in life actually has a greater overall cognitive effect than learning them as an adult, and not just with future language acquisition.

Languages Make the Brain More Adaptable

In “The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual” by Viorica Marian, Ph.D. and Anthony Shook, they discuss how children as young as seven months old benefit from being raised in a bilingual environment. This might seem shocking to many, as children haven’t yet acquired verbal language skills at that age. However, being exposed to multiple languages helps infants “better adjust to environmental changes,” and the benefits continue throughout their life as “the bilingual brain can have better attention and task-switching capacities than the monolingual brain”. In short, learning multiple languages helps your brain learn how to effectively change gears, conform to new or unusual situations, and function well in new environments.  

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Bilingualism Keeps the Brain Healthy in Old Age

Isn’t the brain amazing? Communicating in a new language is exciting, but there are so many additional benefits to language learning just for your brain. The benefits of bilingualism for brain development extend into old age as well. According to Marian and Shook, “bilingual seniors can experience less cognitive decline”. Learning a new language now can help you retain your brain power later in life, and the same applies to your child.

Bilingualism Can Help in Your Child’s Career

Early second language education will help your child both now and in the future. According to Time.com, bilingual job candidates can earn about 2% more than their monolingual counterparts. Knowing a second language also makes you a better candidate for business travel, which enables you to take better advantage of paid business trips. The perks of learning a second language extend into many other aspects of life.

How Can Parents Help Teach their Children Learn?

In addition to choosing an excellent school for your child to attend, you can also be a major driving force in your child’s language acquisition. Incorporating a second language at home, combined with the instruction your child receives at school, will greatly improve the speed of language acquisition. This article from PBS.org has some excellent suggestions for teaching your children at home, and you will benefit as well! Learning a second language with your child can be an enriching experience for you both!

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Finding a school that incorporates a bilingual curriculum for young children is a challenge. Many schools don’t begin teaching a second language until high school, which is well into a child’s academic career, or, at a young age, they teach the language in insolation, for twenty or so minutes a day, which is not effective enough for language acquisition. At Tessa International School, we understand how important it is to provide a solid foundation for bilingualism early in life. This is why we teach 80% of the school day in a second language (Spanish, French or Mandarin) from preschool. Your child’s brain is at a point where it can easily begin to acquire a second language, and we want to see all of our students succeed in language, academics, and in their personal lives as they grow.

If you’re ready to help your child get on the path to being bilingual, please contact us for more information about our school, what we stand for, and how to enroll your child today.